Jeb Bush Backtracks On Religious Freedom Stance

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Jeb Bush may have been first out of the gate in supporting Indiana Gov Mike Pence after the state’s passage of a new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But now he seems to be backing away from his previous statements.

This could be a significant problem for Jeb, especially given how skeptical of him nay conservatives are already. It reeks of a “finger in the wind” politician who can’t be trusted to stand for what he claims to at any given point, but is willing to change views for purely political gain.

This was Jeb Bush’s initial reaction:

“I think Governor [Mike] Pence has done the right thing,” Bush told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to have, to be able to be people of conscience. I just think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.”

Now, he seems to be saying something slightly different … but not quite. That leaves his position muddled, at best, and at least one supporter seems to agree. As New York Magazine reports:

But two days later, with Pence retreating and Bush set to appear at a Silicon Valley fund-raiser, it seems he suddenly wished he’d given a more ambiguous answer. “By the end of the week, I think Indiana will be in the right place, which is to say that we need in a big diverse country like America, we need to have space for people to act on their conscience, that it is a constitutional right that religious freedom is a core value of our country,” Bush said, according to the New York Times.

… Following Bush’s attempt to elaborate his thoughts on the issue, at least one fund-raiser attendee was confused. “I don’t know what Jeb feels,” venture capitalist Bill Draper told the Times. He said he supports Bush, but it was a tough crowd for a conservative. “In Silicon Valley, we are very liberal on the issues of gays and women’s rights, and we’re all sensitive to the apparent wording of the law,” Draper said.

Bush’s more detailed position can be read in full here:

I do think if you’re a florist and you don’t want to participate in the arrangement of a wedding, you shouldn’t have to be obliged to do that if it goes against your faith because you believe in traditional marriage. Likewise if someone walked into a flower shop as a gay couple and said I want to buy all these off the rack, these flowers, they should have every right to do it. That would be discrimination.

It’s unclear how the law would distinguish between prearranged flowers and those made to order, but Bush said there’s already a better law on the books:

Utah went about this, but what they did is they brought all the constituencies together and this included the leadership of the LDS Church and LBGT [sic] community and said, ‘How can we forge a consensus where we can protect religious freedom and also create an environment where we’re not discriminating against people?’ And they figured it out and they passed a law … There wasn’t a bunch of yelling and screaming.

So Bush supports religious-freedom laws, opposes some forms of anti-gay discrimination, and disagrees with how Pence handled the situation? Not quite. “The better approach would have been the approach that is the more consensus-oriented approach I think,” Bush said. “I’m not being critical of Mike Pence, because I did say that I supported his efforts.”


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